KNOXVILLE - Before the jury started deliberating on Wednesday, Senior Judge Paul Summers tossed the murder case against Raynella Leath.
The judge, a former appellate court judge and prosecutor, granted a motion of acquittal after the defense claimed there wasn't enough evidence to support the first degree murder charge against Leath. That is a standard motion in cases like this, but it is rarely granted, according to WBIR legal analyst Dennis Francis.
The jury was not in the courtroom when the judge granted the motion.
There were tears in Leath's eyes as she listened to Summers, and when he announced she was not guilty of first-degree murder, she gasped in disbelief, covering her mouth with one hand as she was embraced by a member of her defense team.
With the dismissal of the case against her, Leath can't be retried for the same crimes. She did not make a statement as she left the City County Building.
Summers' long career includes a stint as the state attorney general and as the elected prosecutor from the 25th Judicial District in the 1980s, the same time Leath's former husband Ed Dossett was district attorney general for Knox County.
This story will be updated.
A jury should begin deliberating Wednesday in the case of a woman on trial for the third time on charges she killed her second husband.
Raynella Leath is accused in Knox County Criminal Court in the shooting death of David Leath in 2003. Authorities say it was staged as a suicide.
This is the third time that Leath has stood trial for the alleged murder. The first trial ended in a hung jury. She was convicted in the second trial, but that conviction was thrown out because of misconduct by Judge Richard Baumgartner, who later acknowledged having a drug problem.
Now, after a week of testimony, another jury will determine her fate.
Prosecutors argued that it was unlikely Leath shot himself because there were three shots fired. There was also no signs of forced entry or signs of a struggle.
Raynella Leath was the only other person in the home at the time of his death.
The defense countered by saying the multiple-shot suicides are not uncommon. They also contend that Leath had dementia and was often frustrated and irritable because of his decreasing cognitive abilities.
Raynella Leath did not testify in her own defense.
The defense rested its case Tuesday afternoon, and closing statements are set for Wednesday.
If convicted, Raynella could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Leath was also previously charged with the murder of her first husband, Knox County District Attorney Ed Dossett, back in 1992.
Those charges later were dropped.
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